Observations from a wacky 49ers wild-card win over the Cowboys

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What a game in Dallas.

The 49ers held on for dear life and won 23-17 after nearly blowing a 23-7 fourth-quarter lead.

San Francisco is moving on to the divisional playoffs.

Here are our observations from a wild one at AT&T Stadium.

First quarter

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– Good first drive for the 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo looks good with a couple good throws into the middle of the field. Dallas looks lost on defense.

– Easy first series for San Francisco. Seven plays, 75 yards and it’s capped with a 4-yard touchdown run by Elijah Mitchell. Garoppolo was 3-for-3 for 43 yards, and Deebo Samuel had three touches for 25 yards. They couldn’t have drawn up their first drive better.

– Three-and-out on the Cowboys first drive thanks to the defensive line. They got good pressure on first down, stopped a run for a loss and then got a sack.

– Third-and-10 dime from Garoppolo to Jauan Jennings. Floated one beautifully on a deep out.

– Robbie Gould drills a 54-yard field goal to make it 10-0, 49ers. The offense was rolling again before the Cowboys blew up a screen pass for a huge loss.

– Dallas’ second series ends when WR Cedrick Wilson airmailed a lateral to RB Tony Pollard. The play would’ve worked. Alas.

End of first quarter: 49ers 10, Cowboys 0

Second quarter

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– Second quarter opens with Samuel going for 19 yards on third-and-3. Nice throw by Garoppolo. He’s been good so far.

– Sick play by Aiyuk on a third-and-9. Garoppolo extended the play and fired a strike into tight coverage. Then Aiyuk battled to reach for the first down.

– Head coach Kyle Shanahan opts to not go for it on 4th-and-1 and settles for a 40-yard field goal to make it 13-0. That’s a good drive for San Francisco, but they have to start getting in the end zone. Dallas is too good on offense.

– The Cowboys have figured it out on offense. They’re down near the red zone thanks to a good mix of their run game and a quick passing game to negate the 49ers’ pass rush.

– Touchdown Cowboys. Amari Cooper demolished K’Waun Williams for an easy score. Disappointing rep from the nickel CB. It’s 13-7, and the 49ers offense needs points now.

– Aiyuk cooked Trevon Diggs for 37 yards on the first play after the TD.

– Another 49ers drive stalls outside the red zone. It’s a 52-yard Gould field goal to make it 16-7. Points are good, but they need touchdowns. Dallas has figured it out on offense.

– The 49ers can’t get off the field on third down.

– Big stop by San Francisco before the half to force a Cowboys punt. They get the ball to start the second half and they could’ve cut into the 16-7 deficit and had a chance to take the lead to open the third quarter.

End of second quarter: 49ers 16, Cowboys 7

Third quarter

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– The 49ers get a three-and-out thanks to an Arik Armstead sack. That’s 3.5 for him the last two games.

– Brutal. Roughing the kicker on a fourth-and-14 gives Dallas a free first down. Inexcusable by Mark Nzeocha.

– Oof. Near interception for Jimmie Ward and Ambry Thomas on a well-covered deep throw to Cooper. It looked like they both had a shot but each deferred to the other.

– Nice throw on third-and-5 on the 49ers’ first drive of the third quarter. Garoppolo under pressure found Jauan Jennings with a little side arm throw.

– Mitch Wishnowsky’s first punt of the game comes on the 49ers’ first drive of the second half. A third-and-1 throw was well-covered by Dallas. Good decision by Garoppolo to throw it out of bounds.

– Huge sack by DJ Jones on a first-and-15 after a Dallas penalty negated a good gain. The Cowboys can’t get out of their own way.

– Now an interception! It’s K’Waun Williams on a throw wide of Cedrick Wilson. The 49ers get it at the Dallas 26.

– One play touchdown! Samuel rips off a 26-yard run to make it 23-7 and that is a mammoth swing in this one.

– Garoppolo missed a wide open Aiyuk. The receiver dusted Diggs again and the QB flat out missed him. That’s brutal and the 49ers are punting.

End of third quarter: 49ers 23, Cowboys 7

Fourth quarter

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– The 49ers special teams falls apart again. Fake punt by the Cowboys on a fourth-and-5 is successful. Josh Norman got lost on the fake and Dallas got an easy first down.

– It’s a 51-yard field goal for Dallas and the 49ers will take it. Nice job by the defense to stiffen up after a special teams miscue. It’s now a 23-10 49ers lead.

– George Kittle’s first catch comes with 11:40 left in the fourth quarter. It goes for 18 yards on a big drive for San Francisco. They need points.

– Absolutely back-breaking INT by Garoppolo. He’s fallen apart late in this game and Dallas is very much in this game. He missed a wide open Trent Sherfield.

– Prescott walks in for a touchdown. Put that one squarely on Garoppolo. It’s 23-17, 49ers.

– Jennings has three catches and they’ve all gone for first downs.

– Enormous penalty on the Cowboys on an incomplete third-down pass. Hands to the face on a Cowboys DL makes it an automatic first down.

– Third down throw to Samuel that could’ve gone a long way toward sealing the game comes up a yard short. San Francisco took a penalty instead of going for it on fourth-and-1 near the 50.

– Great blitz call by DeMeco Ryans on a fourth-and-11. Jimmie Ward forced a deep throw on the run by Prescott. Jaquiski Tartt was in coverage.

– The 49ers need one first down to move on in the playoffs.

– Wow! Defensive holding on the Cowboys on a second-down run. That’s huge. Dallas can get the ball back but time is not on their side. The 49ers still need a first down.

– Two runs after a false start makes it third-and-10 and Dallas is out of timeouts.

– An end-around for Samuel comes up inches short after review. That was a heck of a play call, but he was a chain link shy. It’s a good spot and a great call by Shanahan.

– The 49ers got a first down on a QB sneak, but Trent Williams wasn’t set after motioning on the play and it was flagged for a false start. Just an abysmal mistake and San Francisco has to punt. Dallas takes over at the 20.

– The Cowboys tried a designed run and the clock ran out before they could snap it thanks to the official running into Prescott and moving the ball. Unbelievable. 49ers win.

Final score: 49ers 23, Cowboys 17

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